As summer winds down, students of all ages will be heading back to the classrooms. Just as an athlete trains to perform well in his/her sport, students who wish to excel in school need a healthy diet and to practice healthy behaviors.
Mental strengthening can begin with breakfast. “Children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination,” says Holland Hospital's School Nursing Manager Jane Borr BSN, RN, NCSN. “Too many students are grabbing something to eat on their way to school that will not sustain their energy throughout the morning. Breakfast should consist of a variety of foods including fruits, whole grains, low or non-fat dairy and lean protein.”
Parents who help pack lunches should also understand the importance of healthy foods. In the frantic rush of school mornings, there is a temptation to pick ‘easy choices’ as opposed to healthy ones. “Healthy foods can be easy too!” says Borr. “Many fruits are ‘grab and go.’ We teach that a healthy meal should be 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, and 1/4 whole grains”.
Just as bodies need healthy food to perform, they also require rest. “Sleep affects everything,” says Borr. “Not only clear thinking and mood, but researchers say sleep affects growth and your immune system.” A ‘good night’s sleep’ is 10-11 hours for children in grade school while teens should be getting 8-9 hours. To reach those amounts, Borr suggests:
- Unplug 30 minutes before bed: No computer, phone or TV
- Listen to quiet music
- Try to go to bed at that the same time every night
- Limit your caffeine intake in the evening
- Younger kids should avoid scary movies or TV shows
Making healthy decisions can help put students on the right path for classroom success. The opposite is also true: poor diet + poor sleep= a failing grade.